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Analysis: At margins of shale oil boom, a tempered euphoria

Kristen Hays and Jonathan Leff, Reuters
For the past three years, the boom in the U.S. shale oil industry has outstripped all expectations. Production surged far faster than any forecasts; drillers raced to secure space in new pipelines to get their crude to market.

Now, at the periphery, that may be changing – at least for a while.

News from two of the country’s less developed shale plays in Colorado and Ohio last week offer a reality check for the wave of euphoria that has washed across the industry. The stumbles mark a break from the past few years, when nearly every new project was an overnight success and output grew and grew.

On Thursday, Ohio, home to the Utica shale, finally released annual data on 2012 production that showed the state pumped less than 700,000 barrels of oil from its shale wells — barely enough to fill a small oil tanker. North Dakota’s Bakken shale pumps more than that every day. Even state officials said it the result was "lower than initially estimated."…
(20 May 2013)

Fracking envy

Chris Nelder, Smartplanet
The country has “potentially massive” shale gas resources, enough to “heat all homes for 100 years!”

No, wait! Make that 1,500 years!…

Sound familiar?

No, it’s not the United States. It’s our cousin across the pond: the United Kingdom (UK).

For the past two weeks I’ve been in the UK, where the talk about shale gas has been all the rage since the ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) was lifted by the government in December. The ban was imposed in 2011, after the fracking of Britain’s first shale gas well was blamed for two small earthquakes and gas contamination of groundwater.

More than 500 articles have been published about UK shale gas this year, according to my quick Google search.

So it must be a really big deal, right? With massive proved reserves, and all that stuff?

Actually, no…
(15 May 2013)

Radioactive fracking debris triggers worries at dump sites

Timothy Puko, Triblive
When a garbage truck from a shale gas well set off radiation detectors at a South Huntingdon landfill on April 19, it drew attention from township officials.

But they aren’t the only ones watching what’s become a growing issue all over Pennsylvania. The number of garbage trucks setting off radiation monitors had a fivefold increase between 2009 and 2012, drawing renewed attention from state officials who hadn’t believed radiation would be a big problem from the state’s drilling industry.

South Huntingdon is trying to block MAX Environmental Technologies Inc. from receiving DEP permission to accept a higher level radioactive waste, supervisor Melvin Cornell said.

“This stuff they compile as they dump it. It will grow and grow and grow,” Cornell said. “Hey, if there’s nothing wrong, take it down, and make a playground with it where they live. That might sound harsh, but we don’t want it here.”…
(11 May 2013)

Poland’s shale gas hopes suffer blow
News that Talisman Energy Inc. is pulling out of exploration for shale gas in Poland is a blow to the country’s hopes that its deposits of the hydrocarbon will soon cut its dependence on Russian supplies and support the weakening economy.

Canada’s Talisman said Wednesday it had not found enough gas to warrant further expensive exploration or extraction procedures. It will sell its Polish interests to a European company, San Leon Energy, and focus on easier-to-get deposits in North and South America, Southeast Asia and the North Sea.

The company’s retreat — the second by a major company in less than a year — suggests Poland was too optimistic about the value of its deposits, or at least the speed with which it can retrieve them…
(9 May 2013)

Poland Shale Boom Falters as State Targets Higher Taxes

Marek Strzelecki, Bloomberg
Of 39 wells planned for 2013, just two were drilled by May, Environment Ministry data show. The government plans to require that explorers take a state-run company as a production partner. It has also proposed raising taxes to almost 80 percent of profit, according to Ernst & Young estimates. The measures, announced in October, haven’t become law.

“What’s been done here is what Poles call dividing up the bear hide before you’ve shot the bear,” said Tom Maj, who led the Polish operations of Talisman Energy Inc. (TLM), the Canadian explorer that pulled out of Poland earlier this month. “This has been hugely damaging to the shale gas project as evidenced by the negligible number of wells of the past few months.”…
(21 May 2013)

Insight: The fight for North Dakota’s fracking-water market

Ernest Scheyder, Reuters
In towns across North Dakota, the wellhead of the North American energy boom, the locals have taken to quoting the adage: "Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting."

It’s not that they lack water, like Texas and California. They are swimming in it, and it is free for the taking. Yet as the state’s Bakken shale fields have grown, so has the fight over who has the right to tap into the multimillion-dollar market to supply water to the energy sector…

As in all booms, new players race in to meet the outsized demand. At the heart of this battle is a scrappy government-backed cooperative, conceived to ensure fresh water in an area where its drinkability is compromised.

The co-op has decided to sell 20 percent of its water to frackers to help keep prices low and pay back state loans. That has not gone down well with the Independent Water Providers, a loose confederation of ranchers, farmers and small businesses that for years has supplied fracking water…
(20 May 2013)

Gas drilling – Skytruth/flickr